WESTMINSTER — A walk-off winner by Legacy’s Cooper Stephens helped peel away a long line of postseason sufferings at the hands of Broomfield.
“It feels good to finally beat them in the playoffs,” Stephens said after the Lightning’s dramatic 3-2, double-overtime win over the Eagles Tuesday night. “I said before, I thought this was the year we could do it, and it was.”
The junior’s victorious hit came 109 minutes into a Class 5A state tournament second round game washed in a seesaw of emotions. But really for the Lightning, who’d been beaten in the postseason by the Eagles in 2016, ’18 and ’19, it had felt oh-so much longer.
“Monkey off the back is 100% the accurate phrase,” Legacy coach Tony Romano said.
He’d tried several times to catch his breath at the game’s conclusion.
As a cold light mist fell down on North Stadium, Gavin Gartner and Scott Croff each gave Legacy leads in regulation only to have Broomfield erase them. The Eagles, who are the state’s most winning soccer program in part because they have consistently found ways to survive win-or-go-home games en route to eight state titles, got equalizers from Reyn Tillman and Marcus Von to send the crosstown postseason matchup to extra frames for a third time in four years.
Legacy — finally — had the last laugh.
The Lightning fell in the quarterfinals to the Eagles in both double overtime in 2018 and shootout in ’19, but two years later Stephens rewrote what could have easily been another Legacy heartbreak as his double-OT chance squeezed into a tight window just inside the near post.
When asked about it, Stephens said he thought he’d missed. Instead, it fit perfectly.
“I was like, ‘I can’t believe I made that’,” said Stephens, who was ambushed by teammates and fans that had spilled onto the field seconds after it. “I hit it and I thought it was going wide. But it had a little knuckle on it and it kind of moved to the right and went in.”
He smirked: “I was just excited. I’m happy for my team, happy for myself, happy for the fans.”
Before all that elation, Legacy had to regroup as feelings from the past started to reemerge with its first two leads of the night vanishing.
Gartner had put Legacy ahead in the 27th as he fought for position inside the box, then sprawled all out to get his head on Parker Katz’s bending free kick. Broomfield, though — after appearing to strike back in the 31st on a Yosef Nunez goal that was disallowed by an offside call — tied things two minutes later on Tillman’s finish.
The second half went much the same as what looked to be a harmless-looking chance off the foot of Croff found a way past Broomfield keeper Evan Kulstad in the 56th to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead. The Eagles answered when Von sent a blast from around 25 yards out that speared the top of the net.
“I said to (BHS head coach Jim Davidson) before the game, you want to flip for it now or later,” Romano said. “This is going to be a game of inches. They scored one that got called back, we hit the post. You play this game 10 times, it’s going to be 5-5.”
Legacy will face No. 15 Denver East at North Stadium in the quarterfinals Saturday.